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What do people want in a new city manager?

Original post made by Rory Brown, Almanac staff writer, on Feb 1, 2007

The Menlo Park City Council is scheduled to meet on Thursday, Feb. 8, so members of the public can tell the council what they want in a new city manager.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., in the council chambers at the Civic Center, between Laurel and Alma streets.

What should council members keep in mind when interviewing candidates to replace outgoing manager David Boesch?

Have you been satisfied with Mr. Boesch's management style and work done by his staff?
What changes, if any, would you make to how the city is managed?

Post your comments here, and to reach council members directly, go to the Feb. 8 meeting, or e-mail the council at city.council@menlopark.org.

Comments (12)

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Posted by Menlo Park resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 1, 2007 at 4:24 pm

Menlo Park's new city manager should be an imaginative thinker first and a bureaucrat second. Boesch struck me as nothing exceptional in the imagination department, if he used his at all.

With global warming and global competition only accelerating, this town needs to change its attitude about the status quo. We need to start with the leaders, including the leader of the town's staff.

Employees tend to adjust to the ways of whoever is leading the group. If we have a colorless bureaucrat with an MBA in that position, Menlo Park is going to be left behind.


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Posted by Civics 101
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2007 at 4:38 pm

The most notable aspect of David Boesch's tenure has to be the politicization of the city staff.

No longer could a staff report be relied upon as impartial and factual. The staff was co-opted and used to spin information that served the agenda of the Jellins/Duboc/Winkler majority.

Assistant City Manager Audrey Seymour is clearly part of the problem, and I hope the council does not hand her the city manager job.

Menlo Park needs a city manager who has good management skills, a willingness to be open and honest with the public and the media, and the ethics to make sure that facts and budget numbers are not twisted to support various political agendas.

It's up to the council to set policy and up to the city manager to oversee a staff that provides honest, well-researched information to help the council understand the implications of their policies, even when council members don't want to hear anything that is contrary to their positions.


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Posted by Give me a break
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 1, 2007 at 6:23 pm

Im not here to defend city staff but Im tired of all this stuff thats going on. We have some people that are loud and obviously have too much time on their hands. They tear down people and thorugh them to the side. Maybe they would get further if they werent so loud and rude.


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Posted by Elizabeth Lasensky
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 2, 2007 at 9:56 am

The city manager walks a tightrope between pleasing the city council that hired him/her and subsequent councils, which in Menlo Park can mean wildly opposing points of view. That's a tough place to be!

I second much of what Civics 101 says.

"Menlo Park needs a city manager who has good management skills, a willingness to be open and honest with the public and the media, and the ethics to make sure that facts and budget numbers are not twisted to support various political agendas."

He or she should also be able to: think long term; view the public as employers and customers and not as adversaries; have a willingness to provide adequate if not superior staff support to commissions as well as the council; provide city staff with the materials and encouragement to do their jobs well; take responsibility for decisions, actions and reports; have the leadership and management skills to help move Menlo Park into the future. The city manager should not be a roadblock to information, staff or contacts, rather s/he should be a facilitator and connector. He/she should strive for excellent service to the entire public, rather than doing the least for those who aren't high on the pecking order. Knowledge of regional, county, state and federal officials, policies, grants, legislation and issues would be an asset.

It shouldn't be difficult for the public, and even city council members, to get accurate reports and data from the city - but in the past few years, it's been a struggle.

We could use an outside auditor or some other mechanism to monitor city budgets and expenditures.



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Posted by Anna
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 2, 2007 at 10:08 am

It seems that one of the next city manager's most important -- and challenging -- roles will have to be restoring confidence in city hall. For the last three or four years, there's been the appearance of an appallingly politicized city government, in which the public and press have been unable even to get the real story on the financial health of the city (just one of many examples). The blame, in the eyes of many residents, lies with the former council majority of Winkler, Duboc and Jellins. But a weak city manager who doesn't resist pressure from elected officials bent on furthering their political agendas will not be acting primarily for the public good.

How does a city manager restore confidence? It will take:

** Someone who is open and honest, and believes in the public's right to know about how its government is conducting its business.

** Someone who shows leadership in guiding the council toward policies and decisions that are in the best interests of the community.

** And someone who protects his/her staff from political pressures of council members -- who has a "hands off my staff" policy that council members agree to abide by.


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Posted by Civics 101
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 2, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Elizabeth and Anna make excellent points.

I hope a candidate will be found who can live up to these ideals.


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Posted by A Responsible Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 2, 2007 at 3:45 pm

While I have no comments about the desired characteristics or attributes of a new city manager for Menlo Park, (Like everyone else, I want the best city manager we can find.) I do have several comments about recruitment for this position.

First of all, I would not rely exclusively on a "headhunter." The California League of Cities has a "newsletter" (Western Cities Magazine) which lists job opportunities and that can serve as a useful reclame for seeking candidates. Also, the Institute for Local Government "Munilink" may be a useful vehicle for recruitment.

Second, it has come to my attention that -- to put this nicely -- there are headhunter companies superior to the one chosen. Whoever made that choice of recruitment company would do well to reconsider that choice.

Finally, I can only hope that decisions regarding potential candidates are not based on staff recommendations. The Council must act with total independence of the Administration in this matter. To put this as simply as possible, it is my observation that the City Administration and staff have become the "tail" that is wagging the Menlo Park Government "dog." This new Council should be turning that around.


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Posted by MBA
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 2, 2007 at 4:35 pm

--Professional integrity (isn't going to try to be the council's lapdog or let her/his staff get away with negligence out of a desire to be everyone's buddy).

--A strong grasp of business fundamentals, especially finance.

--Managerial expertise so that s/he can empower and motivate staff rather than make excuses for them.

There are a lot of people with COO experience in the Valley. I hope the city doesn't restrict itself to career bureaucrats who are passing through Menlo Park on their way to a job with a bigger city or county but also considers people with appropriate real world experience.


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Posted by MBA
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 2, 2007 at 4:38 pm

Oh, and I second or third or tenth the comment about the manager remembering that the ultimate clients/bosses are us, the residents who pay the employees' salaries.


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Posted by Sonny
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 3, 2007 at 8:15 am

By saying the city manager should need to always stand up to the council would imply that the people we elect are the problem and makes me question why they were voted in? Politics is brutal in this town and it doesnt have to be. Dont we all want a strong Menlo Park? Just because we have different ideas of how to get there doesnt mean we need so much conflict.


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Posted by Paul E Tix
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 4, 2007 at 11:19 pm

A city manager who rolls over and does the bidding of the council, no matter what, is a city manager who lacks integrity. It benefits everyone if the council members and the manager all provide their different perspectives, even opposing perspectives, to individual issues. Respectful disagreement and an open, iterative, interactive process can result in an optimal solution.

It's not about conflict. It's about having the professional principles to work through an issue instead of taking the easy "yes man" path.


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Posted by debunker
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 11, 2007 at 11:18 am

The basic problem in MP as on the peninsula is the real estate development groups who have "bought" various city councils over the past 25 years. The excessive amounts of dollars "Given" to candidates is destroying the quality of life in this county. The past 4 years in MP has revealed who the political prostitutes are who will vote for any oversized project against the regulations and General Plans of any this and any other town . The final report of "campaign contributions" to the "builders and bankers slate " reveals how serious the problem is in MP. Get your copy from the city clerk or maybe the Almanac will develope the entire story of sources of campaign money given to Winkler, Duboc, & Boyle, and the excessive amounts coming into town from out of town to buy city council chairs for the development industry.During January alone , over $6500 was given to the SLATE from those who are forcing the developments in the Linfield Oaks neighborhood, i.e. Duncan Matteson and other friends of Summerhill development. The developers for the Derry Proposal of 135 Condos next to the tracks spent $182,000+ fighting the Referendum mounted by the disgusted and angry residents who are fed up with the REAL ESTATE EGOS. Of the obscene amounts given to the SLATE to enable real estate development: WE NEED REFORM OF CAMPAIGN REGULATIONS IN MENLO PARK WITHOUT ANY DOUBT.


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